In the next few days Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will make an official visit to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. For Meloni it will be the first visit to Ukraine since the beginning of her mandate: it had been announced for some time, but postponed several times.
It is unclear whether the meeting will take place on Monday or Tuesday. Reuters had written on Sunday that Meloni would be traveling on Monday, while La Stampa and Il Sole 24 Ore explicitly write that the meeting will be held on Tuesday. Other newspapers keep more vague. However, the visit seems certain, so much so that it was preceded by an interview given by Zelensky to the three main Italian newspapers, Corriere della Sera, Repubblica and Sole 24 Ore, which published it on Monday morning.
We don’t know what Zelensky and Meloni will discuss. Concretely, the Italian government has just approved a decree containing a new shipment of arms to Ukraine, the sixth, and has already made it clear that it will support the new European sanctions against Russia, which should be approved within this week. Repubblica writes that during the meeting Meloni could promise Zelensky the supply of “four or five” Italian fighter planes, but only if other Western countries make similar donations: and at the moment it is not clear if and when that will happen.
Meloni is one of the few leaders of a large western country who has not yet met Zelensky in Kiev. Her predecessor, Mario Draghi, had gone to Ukraine several times in the first months of the war. Meloni and Zelensky have met in person only once, ten days ago, during Zelensky’s visit to Brussels, Belgium, to attend the European Council, the meeting of the heads of state and government of the European Union. However, since the beginning of your mandate, Meloni has spoken several times with Zelensky: after each conversation you reiterated that the Italian government will continue to support Ukraine in its efforts to defend itself from the Russian invasion, which began about a year ago.
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For Meloni, the meeting with Zelensky will above all be an opportunity to strengthen his international image and credibility. In the last two weeks she has been excluded from a high-level meeting with Zelensky organized by France and Germany – apparently due to the pro-Russian positions of two large majority parties, Lega and Forza Italia – and her government has received a lot of criticism from allies and opponents around Europe due to the very hostile statements against Zelensky by Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia.
In the interviews given to Italian newspapers, Zelensky rather didactically explained that Ukraine “cannot afford to lose the support of Italy, because you are important in the coalition and because you are a leading country of the European Union”. Zelensky also commented on Berlusconi’s recent statements with a joke: «I heard Berlusconi’s statements. I don’t know him personally, maybe I should send him something… I don’t know, what can I give him? Vodka? I have good vodka. If a case of vodka is enough to get Berlusconi on our side, then we will finally solve this problem.” Zelensky refers to the fact that a few weeks ago Berlusconi said he had recently received 20 bottles of vodka as a gift from Russian President Vladimir Putin, a personal friend of him.